Poem: Nelson Mandela, 'An Ordinary Man' South African spoken word artist Thabiso Mohare performs under the name Afurakan. He shares a poem he wrote about Nelson Mandela.

Poem: Nelson Mandela, 'An Ordinary Man'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/250784027/250802300" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Nelson Mandela will be buried on Sunday in his childhood village. For the past week, people the world over have celebrated the man who transformed South Africa and inspired the global community with his courage and selflessness. We asked South African poet Thabiso Mohare to write a few words remembering Mandela. He composed this poem, called "An Ordinary Man."

THABISO MOHARE: In the end, he died an ordinary man, only rich in wrinkles from where the spirit had been. It would be the saddest days, and we watched the world weep for a giant bigger than myths, and a life owned by many, now free as the gods.

Some cried as though tomorrow was lost. Some celebrated, questioned freedom and its cost. Some seized the chance to stand on his shoulders, while others cursed his grave and scorned wisdom of the elders.

Stadiums were littered, and those in the know spoke their fill. Mourners paid tribute. Monarch to president made the bill. But still, where do I we begin in telling our children where these old bones have been, and that we, as the next of kin, have inherited his struggle, and he forever lives through our skin?

And on his last day, when the Earth reclaims what's hers, we will surrender his body, but reignite his spirit. We will write all we know and let history read it to our children and remind both scholar and critic that there once was a prisoner of freedom who gave the world his heart back. But in the end, he died an ordinary man.


That's South African poet Thabiso Mohare, reading his poem titled "An Ordinary Man."

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.